Monday, July 20, 2015

The Public Information Officer~Release, Block or Spin?

District Attorney's Office PIO, Melissa (Zamora) Landin,
Adorned by Sunflower
Former Texas Attorney General, current Governor Greg Abbott, addresses his fellow Texans in the 2014 Public Information Law Handbook:  

"This notion of openness is the foundation for Texas open government laws, and it was the motivation for the enactment of the Public Information Act (PIA) more than four decades ago. The PIA enshrines Texans’ right to access the information that governmental bodies produce—and outlines the process by which the public can request that information and how governmental bodies should respond."

The dearth of information published in the Brownsville Herald about corruption, ineptitude and cronyism within City of Brownsville and Cameron County government only adds value to the Public Information Act as a vehicle to find out what's going on. With this story we will detail some of the public information options Brownsville citizens have used to gain access to information about city and county government.

For years, City Secretary Estela Von Hatten handled Public Information requests expeditiously, although our final request just before her resignation to ascertain the usage of the $11,296 left over from the $48,986.98 of taxpayer, ratepayer and Tourist Bureau monies spent on Tony Martinez' 2013 State of the City event went unfulfilled.  We suspect our arrogant mayor simply ignored the request.  The Brownsville Herald did report his last comments on that eleven thousand dollar balance:

“It’s going to stay there, for right now,” he said, suggesting it might be used for sustainability efforts, but noting that it ultimately will go where it will make the greatest impact. “We’ll need to prioritize a little bit. It doesn’t go a long way if you spread it out.”

As we've reported on this blog, new City Secretary Michael L. Lopez has been equally gracious so far in responding to public information requests.  An excerpt from our MMB story in May:

"Seeking some answers, my grandson Jack and I approached the clerk window at the City Secretary's office Monday morning to request an "inspection" of Rick Longoria's 2015 Campaign Finance Reports. In short order we were invited inside the cubicle to City Secretary Micheal L. Lopez' office. We were directed to a table adjacent to the secretary's desk displaying the documents. I photographed each sheet, thanked Mr. Lopez and his office for their courtesy and left."

Drue Brown, BISD Public
Information Officer
Drue Brown, BISD's Public Information Officer, has responded to all our requests. Typically, we've received a hard copy answer within ten business days in the form of a letter from BISD Attorney Miguel Salinas.  

One request, for the two reports on three BISD bus fires, was denied, but just days after we forwarded a copy of our challenge to the Attorney General Greg Abbott, we received copies of the report. 
Salinas did not even wait for the AG's opinion.

Below is a copy of our letter to the Texas Attorney General:

Honorable Greg Abbott
Office of the Texas Attorney General
300 W. 15th Street
Austin, TX 78701

Dear General Abbott:

My Public Information Request to the Brownsville Independent School District No. 7630 has been forwarded to your office for a ruling.

My request was to receive copies of two reports regarding the cause or causes of two BISD school bus fires within a single week in October 2013 involving 30 and 29 students respectively. One report was prepared by an independent team hired by theInternational Corporation, Navistar, the manufacturer of the buses involved. The other report was prepared by an independent inspector or inspection team hired by BISD.

Ten business days after my request I received a letter from BISD Staff Attorney Miguel Salinas informing me of that an Attorney General opinion was being sought. Fifteen business days after my request I received a letter citing the Litigation Exception from the Texas Government Code as a suggested basis for not granting my request.

In the DISCUSSION section of the second letter dated June 18, 2014, Staff Attorney Salinas mentions the two October fires and yet another fire, April 10, 2013. Then Salinas states: "First, Litigation had been contemplated since the November 2014 draft report(I assume he meant November 2013) was received and long before the subject request of May 29, 2014. Secondly the information at issue is intricately and specifically linked to the contemplated litigation."

With all due respect, "contemplated litigation" could be used to deny every single Public Information Request. Obviously, no litigation has actually been initiated, not with regard to the two October 2013 school bus fires, not the earlier April 2013 fire. BISD has released no information reassuring parents or taxpayers that correction action has been taken to prevent recurrence.


Jim Barton 

A few days after sending the above letter, we received certified mail from BISD Attorney Miguel Salinas with a cover letter stating that BISD had withdrawn their challenge to our Public Information Request and copies of the two reports.  

Former City of Brownsville Public Information
Officer, Patty Gonzalez
Accidentally, we learned about a change in the way information was dispensed by the City of Brownsville.  We were in the former office of Heritage Officer/Downtown Director/Movie Guru Peter Goodman.  Peter hinted at some prospective developments with the old Stegman Building on East 11th Street.  When I asked a few questions, he picked up the phone and dialed someone in the city, then came back to me in conversation.
"Jim, we have a new policy," Peter stated.  "From now on all information on city projects comes through our new Public Information Officer, Patty Gonzalez.  Here is her number."

That was the first I'd heard about Gonzalez, although I did call her number a couple times after that.  Her actual role as a spinmeister became very obvious before the hearing at Tony Gonzalez Park about the proposed sale of Lincoln Park.  Young Ms. Gonzalez totally twisted the legal necessity of the public hearing from "whether or not to sell Lincoln Park" into "what amenities would you like to see in the new, relocated Lincoln Park?"  Admittedly, that was not her idea.  Yet, it was a total sham, nearly as much so as Commissioner Rick Longoria's narration of a not-so-slick video detailing P.U.B.'s odor control capabilities that would be utilized on the new Lincoln Park adjacent to a sewer treatment plant.  Both efforts stunk to high heaven.  Gonzalez has since moved on. Unfortunately, Rick is still with us.  Lol!

Like his predecessor, Armando Villalobos, District Attorney Luis V. Saenz, felt the need for someone to chronicle his accomplishments and goals, hiring former City Commissioner Melissa (Zamora) Landin.  Press releases, written by Landin, were sent to media sources within and outside Cameron County.  Our request to be included in that list was met by the stiff upper arm of Saenz/Landin.  Here is the response to our request:  

Good morning,

It is the policy of the DA’s Office to not include bloggers on the official media distribution list. However, all press released are available to the public via the DA Web site which are immediately posted upon distribution. I re-designed the DA Web site early last year to make it user-friendly. Prior to January 2013, press releases were not posted and much of the information now available on our Web site was unavailable.

Below is a list of media outlets I e-mail press releases to:
The Brownsville Herald
The Valley Morning Star
The Monitor
San Benito News
La Feria News
Los Fresnos News
Rio Hondo News
Port Isabel Press
The Collegian
The Raymondville Chronicle
Edinburg Review
Houston Chronicle
San Antonio Express News
The Associate Press
El Bravo
Periodico Expreso
Periodico El Manana
KVEO News Center 23
Ch. 4 (CBS)
Ch. 5 (ABC)
Fox (RGV)
My Leader News
My Harlingen News

Rio Grande Guardian

Thank you,

Melissa Zamora
Public Information Officer/Special Projects
Cameron County District Attorney’s Office
District Attorney Luis V. Saenz
(956) 550-1414

What was especially interesting about young Ms. Landin's explanation is that, while she claims that "bloggers" are not included in the official media distribution list, she includes two Harlingen blogs, My Leader News and My Harlingen News, written by Jerry Deal and Tony Chapa respectively.  It's not that the "press releases" written by Ms. Landin would be of any substance, but it's simply nauseating and juvenile that the Saenz office would seek to control the flow of information in that way.


  1. It's silly for you to claim being a "news" site. You take too many days off. I am with Melissa on this one. She also knows McHale is a porn blogger and Montoya a paid writer. She should keep ignoring you three.

  2. Reading comprehension may not be your strong suit. Where does this blog claim to be a "news site?" As for taking days off, why don't you concentrate on resuscitating your failed blog as opposed to being obsessed with this one?

  3. Really, you're just a lanced boil on the Blimp's ass.

    1. Ouch!That had to hurt, Jim.

  4. So, I’d like to start by debunking five immigration myths that these politicians are peddling and that are widely repeated by their supporters.

    1. “I’m not against immigration. I’m against illegal immigration.”

    This is a standard trope — up until a few days ago, when perennial Republican candidate Rick Santorum called for cutting back legal immigration by 25 percent, particularly among low and unskilled immigrants. Like Trump impugning all Mexicans, not just the undocumented, Santorum has now laid bare yet another distinction without a difference.

    2. “Mexicans are flooding across the border.”

    Uh, no they’re not. Illegal immigration from Mexico crested at the beginning of this century because of terrible economic conditions in Mexico and a completely understaffed Border Patrol. Undocumented Mexican immigration finally started to fall after 2007. Border apprehensions have fallen by 75 percent since about 2000, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Since 2010, there has been no net migration from Mexico — that is, more people coming than going. In fact, more Central Americans are apprehended these days than Mexicans.

    3. “We are in the middle of an unprecedented immigration crisis.”

    No, we’re not. That crisis came and went years ago. In fact, the number of people entering the country illegally is similar to the 1970s and stable — and that’s according to three different think tanks with very different political views: conservative, centrist and liberal. (The Center for Immigration Studies, the Pew Center and the Center for Migration Studies respectively.) Even if you took the Center for Immigration Studies’ worst-case estimate, about 400,000 people enter the country illegally from all points on the globe, far less than in 2007 and more akin to what we saw in the 1970s. The overall population of undocumented immigrants has fallen from 12 million to 11 million, in fact. This is a phony crisis, manufactured by presidential ambitions.

    4. “Yes, but we’re talking about criminals. Being in this country illegally is breaking the law.”

    Not quite. Being in this country without authorization is a civil matter, according to the federal statute, subject to civil remedies. It’s not unlike that unpaid parking ticket in your glove box, except you can’t get deported for the parking ticket. Crossing into the United States without legal authorization is a crime – but it’s a misdemeanor generally punishable by a $50 fine. Coming to the United States outside proper channels does not exactly make somebody El Chapo.

    5. “OK, OK. But there’s a crime wave sweeping the border. It’s chaos and mayhem.”

    Um, no. Crime along the entire U.S.-Mexico border went down even as the murder rate in Mexico went up in the first decade of this century. El Paso and San Diego were declared two of the safest cities in America, and more recent FBI data still shows border cities to be safer than many others. Even in South Texas, crime decreased according to an analysis of Texas and FBI data by the Houston Chronicle. That’s down, not up. And yes, the feds bring the preponderance of their cases on the border — for immigration and drug-trafficking. Where else would they bring them?

    The data is somewhat incomplete, but it is accurate to say that there is absolutely no proof that Mexican immigrants are somehow responsible for more crime than anyone else. In fact, one study by the Center for Migration Policy — which, granted, is decidedly friendly toward immigration — found that Mexican citizens are incarcerated at about one-fifth the rate of native-born American citizens. Rick Perry once claimed that undocumented immigrants were to blame for 3,000 homicides in Texas — a claim rated “pants on fire” by Politifact Texas because everyone killed in Texas then would’ve been killed by a Mexican. Please.

    So, why thank Trump? Because he is forcing his party to come clean on immigration and people of Mexican descent in general. It will be telling to see where the politicians and their followers turn out. But from me for now: Thank you, Donald Trump.

    1. The reason illegal immigration from Mexico is down is because the US economy is much worse off than the statisitcs indicate. On top of that, the cost of housing has increased greatly and pay has not. Central American immigration is high because the conditions as so bad at home, not because things are great in the US. On top of this, there are thousands of Babby Boomers moving to Mexico, Central America and Asia to find a place to live with their lowly incomes. The high birth rate among Latinos is the only thing keeping the US from negative population.

    2. I for one LOVE THE DONALD AND PRAYING FOR HIM TO BECOME PRESIDENT. I'm just so sick of the mexican and all illegal alien MIERDA INVADING OUR COUNTRY'
      BTW I'm 3rd generation AMERICAN OF MEX. DECENT!!!!!!!!!

    3. There is nothing lower than a self-hating racist. Congratulations pendejo, you win.

  5. Not so much here but other blogs are always jumping on blogger Robert Wigtman-Cervantes. Well, there's nothing wrong with fat people. There IS something fundamentally wrong with the more extreme mentality of the "fat acceptance" crowd, i.e. gyms are fatphobic, weightloss is too hard, everyone should be attracted to fat ladies/men because if they're not they're cruel bigots, doctors are oppressing us because they're telling us to lose weight for our health, stop telling us to eat healthier foods fuck you we'll eat what we want, etc.

    In a nutshell, they take the pettiest of slights and blame them on people smaller than them, and likewise refuse to do anything to change their lives because they're addicted to feeling sorry for themselves/making excuses for themselves and lashing out at others like angry, red-faced, marshmallowy toddlers throwing tantrums.

    This attitude, I think, is what pretty much fanned the flames in recent years against those identifying as "fat" or anything close to. Thanks to tumblr (especially This Is Thin Privilege), fat people are associated with a bunch of delusional whining cows who lack self-control, who believe that all "thin people" are shallow and materialistic skanks who get everything handed to them on a silver plate, and who demand for everyone to be sexually attracted to them because they have "real" bodies.

    So give The Blimp a pass every now and then. Okay?

    1. Nice intellectual slam of the Blimp.

  6. "At a bar like this, what could disappoint you?" a man asked the other night, at Downtown Johnny’s in Harlingen. There might be one or two things, but it depends on your expectations: earlier in the evening, a slick of Mexican yuppies, perhaps attracted by the exposed brick, had walked into the narrow room looking confused, and walked out, noses pointing upward to the chess set that’s glued to the ceiling. But those with an appreciation for a good dive bar stuck around, unlike a couple of the ceiling’s knights and bishops, which have fallen in a battle against gravity. Happily, the drinks are priced for a pawn: Rolling Rock on draft is $3.50, refreshing in a city overflowing with beer from Mexico. Also appealing to the boozing bargain hunter is the Shot of the Day, at the same price, which is often reminiscent of a concoction that you might have drunk in college on a dare. At Downtown Johnny’s (6745 Ed Carey Drive), you can draw Burt Reynolds on a napkin for the Burt Reynolds wall, or admire a Yoda doll driving a small blue Thunderbird. But it’s not so hip that you fear being throttled by a man bun. One guy told a story about how he used an antique shotgun to ward off a burglar in his apartment. A wincing group knocked back shots of tequila mixed with milk. The final report: "Not as bad as you’d think."

  7. We are the easiest of culos. That's how politicians rape us. Mexicans bend over like cheap lumber. Browntown is Mexico! Laugh it off, sure!

  8. Take a laxative and start typing, you lazy-assed clown! That's what Blimp does to keep going. Aha ha ha

  9. What is the price of pussy in Brownsville these days? Anyone know?



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